Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Disposition: Protest denied.
Protest challenging agency’s evaluation of protester’s proposal is denied where the record establishes that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
Noble questions the agency’s evaluation of its proposal and maintains that it submitted a technical approach that addressed everything required by the RFP. Noble argues that the RFP only required an outline and schedule explaining how the sample task would be performed, and that the agency unfairly downgraded its proposal for not providing additional detail beyond what the solicitation required. GAO states that in reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations and source selections, GAO examines the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws. It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. In this regard, an offeror must affirmatively demonstrate the merits of its proposal and risks the rejection of its proposal if it fails to do so. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s evaluation provides no basis to question the reasonableness of the evaluators’ judgments.
As an initial matter, although Noble complains that the agency improperly rejected its proposal, its proposal was not rejected, it was simply not rated as highly as the 15 proposals that were selected for award. The record shows that the agency received 83 proposals, evaluated and ranked them, and concluded that Noble’s proposal was one of the better proposals received–i.e., the agency included Nobel’s proposal in its ranking of the 20 highest-rated proposals. Although Noble was not selected for award, it is not accurate to suggest that this proposal was rejected, or did not receive meaningful consideration.
Noble complains about the agency’s assessment of the adequacy of the proposal’s response to the sample task, and in particular, the lack of detail regarding the equipment that would be used to perform the specific sample task. The CO explains that although Noble included an equipment list in its proposal, Noble did not explain which of the items would be used during performance. In the CO’s view, a proposal that clearly identifies the type and size of equipment to be used to perform the sample task better demonstrates an offeror’s understanding and expertise. Thus, the CO reasonably expected to see such evidence of expertise in the proposal. Moreover, many of the other offerors provided this type of information, and were ranked higher as a result. The CO also explains that Noble did not provide information describing the number and type of personnel it was proposing to perform the specific sample task. As a result, the agency concluded that Noble had made less of a showing about whether it actually understood what resources were necessary to accomplish the task. In sum, given the relative lack of details in Noble’s response to the sample task, the agency’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the evaluation criteria. Furthermore, given the reasonableness of the evaluation, the record provides no basis to question the agency’s decision not to select Noble for award of a contract under the RFP here. The protest is denied.